Missionaries and others who evangelize in Russia now face severe restrictions on those activities since President Vladimir Putin approved sweeping new anti-terrorism laws.
The new laws include prohibitions against sharing faith in homes and through social media, email or other Internet sites. Religion can be promoted only in approved church buildings and by those associated with registered organizations, according to Forum 18 News Service, a Christian media outlet based in Norway.
“Lawyers working to protect the right to freedom of religion and belief are already preparing for an appeal to the Constitutional Court,” Forum 18 reported. “At the same time, they are preparing advice to individuals and religious communities on how to abide by the terms of the law. One Protestant leader, though, has warned that some of the restrictions ‘a good Christian cannot fulfil.’”
The new measures grant members of state-registered religious groups the right to continue sharing their faith with others.
“This excludes people from groups which have chosen to operate without state permission, such as certain Baptist congregations,” the news agency reported. “The amendments also bar even informal sharing of beliefs, for example responding to questions or comments by individuals acting on their own behalf.”
The new laws go into effect later this month and widen definitions of and support for terrorism. Observers of the religious restrictions are taking a wait-and-see approach to its enforcement.
“There are potentially very wide-sweeping ramifications to this law,” said the Slavic Gospel Union’s Joel Griffith in a report by Mission Network News.
“It just depends on … how it is going to be enforced and that is a very huge question.”